Greater Napanee council passed its 2019 budget on Thursday, adopting a 2.95 per cent tax levy which means urban ratepayers will see a 1.1 per cent tax rate decrease while rural ratepayers will see a 4.1 per cent rate increase.
Based on those numbers, a property owner with an average assessed value of $242,902 would pay $1,416 in total taxes if they live in an urban area (a decrease of $16.16 from last year) while rural residents will pay $1,289 in total taxes (an increase of $71.13). The total operating budget for 2019 is projected to be $19.3 million, a 1.89 increase from last year.
Thursday’s meeting was council’s second attempt to pass the 2019 budget after turning down the original draft which called for a 3.47 per cent levy increase. Council challenged staff to find ways to get that number below three per cent.
Town of Greater Napanee CAO Ray Callery says staff was able to hit that mark, actually finding a proposed savings of $61,000 (the target being $58,000 to get under three per cent) by taking a second look at revenue projections. With the first draft of the budget being completed in December, Callery said now that they’re in April they have a better idea of what kind of revenue they will generate through areas such as ice rental fees and fire service calls.
“It isn’t that we’re changing the fee, it’s the fact that when we look at the fees we set through by-laws, based on the usage, we can make adjustments we think are still reliable by the end of the year to ensure we can still make our projections,” said Callery.
Staff also recommended the town request the Napanee Business Improvement Area (BIA) cover $5,000 of the cost of hosting the annual Big Bright Lights show, which would represent one-fifth the total $25,000 cost. Mayor Marg Isbester suggested the BIA seek federal funding to help cover the cost, as the members have already expressed concerns with being able to cover that $5,000.
Callery also noted additional savings were found by the fact the Winter Chill Festival came in $5,000 under budget due to frigid weather cancelling most of the planned events, as well as the fact the BIA would no longer be hosting the Scarecrow Festival this year-a savings of $500 for the town.
“We believe that we have met council’s objective of reducing (the tax levy) below the three per cent threshold,” said Callery.
“This has been a particular difficult (budget) because with the provincial government as we know, we don’t know what’s coming down to us next,” said Isbester. “We’ve had some money drop down from the skies but I think there’s going to be money going back up too.”
Isbester says council will have to be committed to sticking to the budget and continue to seek ways to increase revenue.
“I’m quite impressed in the fact that we haven’t stolen from Paul to pay Peter,” said councillor Terry Richardson. “If we need a new lawnmower, we’re going to get a new lawnmower. I’m impressed because that was my biggest fear, that we were going to take money from something that maybe we shouldn’t be taking money from. From what I can see here, we haven’t done that.”
Deputy mayor Max Kaiser agreed.
“This is my fifth budget as a member of this council,” said Kaiser. “I can tell you the last three years staff were challenged to keep our rate increases to approaching zero. We weren’t successful at being zero but we were pretty lean and pretty minor increases. I believed three years ago that was going to come back and bite us at some point in the future. Here we are in the future and it’s only three per cent. I thought it was going to be five or seven.”
Council voted unanimously to adopt the budget.